MP Michelle Thomson has been “overwhelmed” with support after making a moving speech at the House of Commons revealing she’d been raped at the age of 14.
During a debate on violence against women, which you can watch below, the Scottish National Party MP moved fellow politicians to tears as she described the attack and its psychological aftermath, explaining that she’d carried “guilt, anger, fear, sadness and bitterness for years”, but had decided to speak out to help others “understand one element of sexual violence against women.”
Speaking levelly and articulately, Thomson recalled how she’d been attacked by someone she knew and trusted while walking home, and that the event had left her feeling “spoiled and impure and […] revulsion towards myself.”
“We did go a slightly different way, but I didn't think anything of it. He told me he wanted to show me something in a wooded area and at that point, I must admit, I was alarmed,” she said.
“I did have a warning bell, but I overrode that warning bell because I knew him and therefore there was a level of trust in place.
“And to be honest, looking back at that point, I don't think I knew what rape was. It was not something that was talked about. My mother never talked to me about it, I didn’t hear other girls or other women talking about it.”
Thomson, 51, went on to explain the “huge effect” the attack had on her, both at the time and in the subsequent years.
“I cannot remember hearing anything when I replay it in my mind. Now, as somebody who’s an ex-professional musician, who is very, very auditory, I find that quite telling [...]
“I froze, I must be honest. Afterwards I walked home alone. I was crying, I was cold, and I was shivering and I now realise of course that was the shock response. I didn't tell my mother. I didn't tell my father. I didn't tell my friends. And I didn't tell the police. I bottled it all up inside me [...]
“I hoped, briefly and appallingly, that I might be pregnant so that would force a situation to help me control it.”
She added that it had shaped her attitude to sex at different times: “I briefly sought favour elsewhere and I now understand that even a brief period of hyper sexuality is about trying to make sense of an incident and reframe the most intimate of acts.”
Several MPs showed their support on Twitter following the moving speech.
The MP used her very personal story to highlight the shame many survivors feel, and how the myths of rape lay blame at the woman’s door.
“I was very ashamed, I was ashamed that I had allowed this to happen to me. I had a whole range of internal conversations about ‘I should have known, why did I go that way, why did I walk home with him, why didn’t I understand the danger?’ I deserved it because I was too this, I was too that […]
“The myths of rape are perpetuated from a male perspective: ‘Surely you could have fought him off? Did you scream loudly enough?’ And the idea that some men would suggest that a woman are giving subtle hints or is making it up is outrageous […]
“Rapes happen because of the rapist, not because of the victim.”
Overwhelmed by the number of supportive messages I have received today. Thank you to everyone who has been in touch.— Michelle Thomson (@MichelleThomson) December 8, 2016
And she said she’d sought help in the intervening years, saying: “I'm not a victim. I'm a survivor.”
Following Thomson’s speech, speaker John Bercow was visibly moved and said she had left “an indelible impression on us all.”
Other speakers included Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen, who told how a man attempted to rape her during her second year at university
According to The Herald, the debate, focused on raising awareness of sexual violence and the United Nation’s International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women, has prompted Scottish police to investigate the 1979 attack on Thomson.